Dean's wrists were tied above his head, hooked to something. The freakin' witches had blinded him (and that shit better be temporary,) and maybe he was starting to re-think the whole 'Sammy doesn't tell me anything, I'm not gonna tell him anything' mantra. He was in a bad situation here, and, as far as Sam knew, he was just out 'blowing off steam.' Yeah, that was some brilliant hunting technique, there, Winchester.
Thing was, for weeks he'd been trying to train himself out of having a partner. Sam and his damn lies, sneaking around and drinking demon blood, for Christ sake, had pretty much blown trust right out the window. So, yeah, Dean had gone his own way on this witch hunt. And that's worked out well, eh? Unless Sam had spidey sense, he wasn't going to realize Dean was even missing until morning. Another four goddamned hours. And who even knew if he'd come looking? The way things were between them lately, well, not a lot of warm conversation. Mostly efficient exchanges about whatever hunt they were on, or whatever clues they could find about where Lucifer might have gone. But, just shooting the shit and, god forbid, joking around? No. Not in great supply in family Winchester at the moment.
The three witches across the room cackled. The bitches actually cackled. Kind of a screechy, high-pitched laughter that had to be for effect. They had told him he couldn't watch them 'at work' so they'd done some sort of mumbo jumbo and tossed some fairy dust or some shit at his eyes. Things went black from there. They were off to find another kid, he knew. And that kid was going to get taken and sacrificed because Dean had been caught with no back-up. Stupid, Dean. Your hurt feelings and frickin' family issues are gonna cost some innocent kid his life.
The witches were murmuring, mixing and shuffling around in their witchy way, and Dean tried to clear his panic, ah, his head enough to come up with some sort of plan. Maybe he could tear free from whatever they'd hooked his hands on? His shoulders were already aching from trying, and it was no little nail in the wall or it would have given by now. If he put his whole weight on it and heaved? But he was sitting on the floor and lifting himself up when his shoulders were already hyper-extended was proving to be pretty challenging. He heaved. Nothing budged. One of the witches, he thought it was the older red-head, laughed. "That's so cute. He's trying to escape."
"They always do. I think I'd actually be disappointed if we had somebody who didn't. Kind of dull, then, hmm?" It was the blond who looked about 15.
I hate freakin' witches.
They were packing up, it sounded like. Boxes were being slammed shut, zippers were being zipped. They seemed to be going down a checklist of items and closing down the house. Not much time left.
Dean felt frustration and self-blame twine equally through him. Why hadn't he just filled Sam in, taken him along? Because you're still so messed up by everything he did over the last year that you can't let him back in. Not yet. Maybe never. But, Dean was re-evaluating that strategy right about now. It was punishing him and Sam both. And he knew Sam was trying his damnedest. He didn't complain when the withdrawal from the demon blood made him sick, or he had bad hallucinations. He never told Dean what they were (Dean didn't ask, of course) and they both ignored the tears the episodes wrung out of Sam. He didn't go far from Dean's sight, by silent agreement. He hadn't chafed when Dean wouldn't even let him go to the library by himself. He knew he was in the shithouse, and he acted accordingly.
Tied up and blind, and at the mercy of three freakin' witches, Dean thought maybe I've let the punishment go a little too long. Cause that's what he was doing. He was punishing Sam. Withholding his trust, not giving Sam even simple kindness or conversation. He was hurting Sam, and he knew it. Sad thing was, he liked it. He liked knowing Sam was feeling the sting of Dean's withdrawal, his disapproval. His coldness. Cause that's what Sam had done to him. For months. So, yeah, Dean was okay with that. Except you know damn well if it had been you screwing around all those months, Sam would have forgiven you by now. Dean, on the other hand, couldn't let it go.
But just because it felt good to punish and hurt Sam, didn't mean it was smart. Right about now, he'd take just about any version of Sam, to be at his back and helping him out of this mess he'd created – tied up, blind and unable to prevent these bitches taking another kid.
And then, he heard something. Sounded like some sort of thump from downstairs. He was in the attic of the little house, and all three of the Glindas were up here with him. The thunk was followed by silence, which meant the witches had heard it, too, because they had shut up to listen. Red-head said, "Go see what that was." And footsteps ran across the floor to the door by the stairs. Nice. You just told him where we were. Because Dean knew it was Sam. Somehow, that geek had found out where Dean was and had come to his rescue. And, he also knew that, in the back of his mind, he'd expected Sam to come. Maybe things aren't as broken as I thought.
The blonde's voice came from over by the door. "Should I go down? Do you think someone's here? Or it's just a house noise?" And Dean could hear that the showy, witchy tone was gone, and she finally sounded as young as she looked.
Red-head must have gestured for her to go, because Dean heard the door open, slowly, and then a pause, before her footsteps went softly down the stairs. Everyone in the attic, including Dean, stayed quiet and strained to listen. At least five minutes went by, and, still nothing. No noise, no calling out. The house was silent. Nice work, Sammy boy. Now, just wait for the next one.
Red-head must have gestured again, because he heard the dark-haired one say in her British accent, "You must be joking."
Red-head didn't sound jovial when she said. "Go."
"Why don't we simply climb out the window or something?"
Red-head sighed with impatience. "We don't have a ladder, and these cases are fragile. We can't go flinging them out a window, Prudence."
Dean couldn't resist. "Prudence? Really?"
Red-head shouted. "Silence!" Then, understanding that it wasn't smart to yell, said in a whisper. "Go. Take the gun."
Uh oh. Dean waited until Prudence opened the door to the stairs. Then he yelled, "Gun, Sammy!"
Red-head did some heavy-footed stomping over to him and kicked his head. Dean would have fallen over sideways if his arms hadn't held him up.
This time they both heard the scuffle that came from below. Then Prudence's soft "No, don't…" before all was quiet again.
The red-head crouched down in front of Dean and grabbed a handful of his hair. "Who is down there?"
Dean's head was throbbing but he smiled. "That would be a shitload of trouble for you, Red."
She thunked his head against the wall. "Who is it?!"
And from the door, Sam spoke softly. "Let go of him."
Red couldn't use him as a shield, because he was hunched over on the floor. She must have known she was out of options, and Dean could hear the creak of her knees as she stood up. "Wait. You don't have to kill me."
Sam took a couple of steps into the room. "I don't? Because you don't do human sacrifices? Because you don't take 10 year olds and carve them up for your youth spells? Because, you know, I hate to break it to you, but they're not working so well."
And Red's breathing started to huff and puff. "Shut up."
Sam gave a short laugh. "You shut up." And his gun went off twice.
Red thunked to the floor in front of Dean. Sam rolled her out of the way. "Dean? You alright? You look a little spacey."
Dean let out the breath he'd been holding. "Yeah, um, I'm kind of blind."
Sam paused just a moment in the cutting of the ropes. Then sawed him free. "Blind, huh?"
Dean sighed. "Yeah."
Dean shrugged. "Don't know. Seemed kind of quick to be a real spell, might have just been some temporary powder thing."
Sam took his arm and helped him to his feet. "Okay, let's get you to the car, and then I'll torch the house."
Dean let Sam lead him.
By the time they were driving away from the burning house, Dean was losing track of time. His head hurt and being blind was more disorienting than he would have thought. So, he closed his eyes and his mind settled a bit. He was pretty sure it was temporary. Must be, right? They hadn't pulled out a hair or cut his fingernail or any of that other personal shit that would have been the sign of more serious spell work? Probably. For sure, come on, Dean. Stop freaking out. Sam had been busy since he'd put Dean in the car. He'd buried the witches out in the woods, torched the house and all its books and plants and eyes of newt or whatnot.
When Sam opened the driver's door and got in, he smelled of dirt and smoke. He sighed with weariness and put his hand on Dean's shoulder. "How you holding up?"
Dean shrugged. "Head hurts. Bit dizzy. Oh, yeah, blind."
Sam paused. "You want me to take you somewhere? You'd probably be more comfortable with Bobby? Maybe Ellen? Wherever you want to go, man. Just until this clears up."
Dean couldn't help the surge of hurt that stabbed him when Sam talked of taking him somewhere else. But, really, what had he thought? That Sam would take his hand and tell him not worry, he'd take care of him himself?
Sam went on, in his soft, tired voice. "I mean, I know you don't trust me anymore. Because, you know, even if I tell you I'm right in the room with you, you'd probably think I was lyin', huh?" He laughed what Dean could only describe as a sad laugh. "It's okay. I don't blame you. I can come and get you when you get your sight back. You know, if you want."
Jesus. But that's what Dean had been trying for, wasn't it? To let Sam know he didn't trust him, didn't want him as a partner just now. That's how he'd been treating Sam for awhile, wasn't it?
"Sam, how did you find me?"
That took Sam by surprise. "What?"
"Tonight. How did you know I was in trouble?"
Sam cleared his throat. "Well, yeah. Um. I had a bad feeling?"
Dean nodded. "And so?"
"So, I went to the diner where I'd last seen you. Found out that the red-head who'd waited on us had just worked there for the day, and left early. Um, then I asked around to see if anyone knew where the red-head lived, and someone remembered seeing her take the road up to the Miller place. Which, I checked out and found out it was unoccupied since like, 1995. So, you know, that seemed a good place to start."
Dean nodded. "And how did you know about the kids?"
"Well, I might have gone through your stuff to see what you'd been working on."
"You knew I was working on something?"
"Well, duh, Dean. I do live with you 24/7. I do notice what you're doing."
"And you weren't mad?"
"Mad about what?"
"That I was cutting you out of a hunt? That I wasn't telling you what I was doing, where I was going?"
Sam didn't answer. Dean sighed. He opened his eyes and the darkness took him by surprise again. "Sam, I know I'm being a bit of a dick about things right now. I tell myself to let it go, to try to go back to the way things were, you know, between us. And, I haven't really been able to. I just remember all the times I woke up and you were gone, or all the times I asked you what you were doing and you didn't answer – or just lied to my face. And I ---"
Sam put his hand on Dean's shoulder again. "Dean. I get it. You don't have to explain. I don't blame you. Not for that. I earned that, I guess." He cleared his throat and took his hand from Dean's shoulder. "But, you know, to not tell me when you were going after witches? That's just stupid."
Dean scoffed. Sam let out a soft laugh. "It is. You know it. But here's the thing, either we find a way forward or you should go hunt with Bobby or Rufus or someone. Because you should have back up. If you don't trust me, well, I can't do anything about that, but you've got to trust someone. It's just not safe---"
Sam took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "Okay. So, where to?"
Dean all of sudden felt like he was going to cry. It was like all the shit that had happened in the last couple of months was pouring down on him. He reached for control. "Just let me say this."
Dean took some deep breaths of his own. Damn if he was going to cry now when he and Sam were both safe in the car, the witches vanquished, the unknown kid safe. "When I was up there with those bitches, I knew that I was in a bad situation. I mean, tied up? Blind? Not good. I knew I only had myself to blame, cause I'd cut you out of it."
"Shut up. Even though I'd done all that, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew you'd come. Or, at least, you'd try to come."
And he actually felt some of the tension go out of Sam. This blind thing really does amp up the other senses. "I knew that, whatever had gone down between us, you would try to help me."
Sam spoke softly. "Yeah. I would. Thanks for that, at least."
Dean couldn't speak around the lump in his throat. Sam must have thought he was done, because he patted Dean once more on the shoulder and then turned in his seat to start the car. "So, where to?"
Dean shook his head and couldn't help the sad smile. "Just back to the motel, Sam."
"Yeah, we'll get our stuff, but then, you know, where do you want to go until this blind thing lifts?"
"I don't want to go anywhere else."
"Of course you do." And Dean heard the frustration tingeing Sam's words. "Dean, it's alright. I told you I understand. I don't want you to be uncomfortable ---"
Dean turned toward Sam, though he still couldn't see him. "Jesus, you're going to make me spell it out, aren't you? Though, I suppose I deserve that."
Sam huffed out another breath of frustration. "Dean, what the hell are you talking about? I'm not making you do anything. I'm trying to give you what you want, here. Why are you ---"
Dean cut him off. "I'm sorry, Sammy."
That took him by surprise. Dean could picture Sam floundering around with his puppy dog look, totally confused. "Sorry for what, exactly?"
Dean felt that bubble of emotion rear its head again. He doesn't even see it. I've been a complete cold-hearted prick for weeks and he doesn't think anything of it. Like that's all he deserves from me. Like that's how your older brother should treat you when you've been fucked over by angels and demons and make a mistake. Dammit. I am not going to tear up over this shit.
But Dean felt the moisture welling. He cleared his throat a couple of times. "The thing is…" He had to stop. Another deep breath. "Sam, I, fuck it…" And he felt the first tear roll free. "Goddammit."
Sam's hand crept back to his shoulder. His voice was whisper soft. "Just tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it. Don't worry, okay?"
So, what the hell. Dean choked it out. "I want you to be my brother again. I want to trust what you say, and know that you'll be next to me and with me as we try to get through this fucked up world. I am so tired, Sam. So sick of feeling like…"
"Like you don't have family to fall back on? Like the fate of the world is resting only on your shoulders? That no one else gets it, or even wants to get it? No one looks at you like you're trustworthy or even trying?" Sam gave a watery chuckle. "Yeah. I know that feeling. Kinda sucks."
Dean closed his eyes again. "Yeah. It does suck."
And they sat there for a few minutes, the car humming around them, while something seemed to shift between them. Sam spoke first. "Dean, I know the damage I did. To you, to Bobby. To earth. I could choke on all the guilt I feel for all of that. But, what the hell would that gain anybody. So, I'm trying. I'm trying to prove that I can be trusted, that I have your back, that you can let me out of your sight for 10 seconds and I won't go consort with demons and have a party with Lucifer. And that's all I can do. I can't wave a wand and erase what I did, to myself or to you. To anything. So, I'm trying to live with it and accept the consequences. And, you're going to have to do the same. One of these days, you will have to accept either that you cannot go back to working with me, or you can. Because this in-between thing isn't working. It's too hard. For me and for you."
Dean just kept his head against the seat and tried to breathe, slow and steady. Why was all of this hitting him right now, anyway? Because your brother just saved your ass, and you thought those days were over? Because you know you've made things 100% worse for Sam since the day you saw him sneaking out with Ruby and exorcising that demon with his mind? Because you didn't give him one moment of understanding for all he was up against, you just told him to shut it down, and that he was a monster, or would be soon? Because when he needed a big brother you were a no-excuses commander ruled by fear? Gee, pick one, Dean.
Sam took his silence as time to move on. He put the car in gear and drove. Dean tried to think of what he wanted to say without coming off like a total girl. Forgive me, Sammy, and let me be your brother again? Sorry I didn't understand and acted too late? Hold me? Cause if I open my mouth to tell you any of this I'm going to cry like a baby? So, he breathed in and out, and let the silence linger.
When they stopped at the hotel, Sam said, "You okay to get out?"
Dean nodded. "Yeah. Blind, not crippled."
"'Physically challenged,' Dean."
"Whatever." And Dean swung out of the car. Before he could think, 'which way, Sam,' Sam was at his elbow, gently steering him toward the room.
"Two steps up." Dean took two steps up. He heard Sam open the door, and then he nudged Dean through. "Bathroom is straight ahead, maybe 11 o'clock." Dean could picture it in his head and moved to the bathroom. He felt Sam follow. Sam turned on the fan/light. "Shower on your left. Hot on the left, cold on the right. Soap's in the dish, so's the shampoo. Towels on the wall just outside the curtain." And with that, he left and shut the door.
Dean took a shower, still thinking about what he wanted to say to Sam.
When he came out 20 minutes later, he heard the t.v., and smelled take out. Sam came over, took his elbow and stopped him in front of his bed. "Clothes laid out, burger, fries and coke on the night stand in the middle. " And Dean heard him walk away, then the bathroom door shut.
Two hours later, there was still silence between them. Sam was turning off the lights. "You need anything before we crash?"
Dean shook his head. "No, I'm good."
"Night." And he could hear Sam rustling around to get comfortable in his bed. Dean let out a sight. Okay. Now or never. "Sam?"
"I don't want to be anywhere else, okay?" Sam didn't answer. Dean could hear his soft breathing. "I want us to try to get back to ---" And cue the tears again. Shit.
"Yeah, me too. I'm so sorry, Dean . I know I fucked it all up."
Dean let go a sigh, got himself back under control. "You didn't fuck it up alone."
"Feels like I did."
"Well, stop. I'll stop, too. I've been letting you swing in the wind, and I'm done with that."
Dean huffed. "You don't believe me?!"
Sam hmmmed. "Well, seems kind of a quick turnaround, you know, for you."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"Well, Dean, you did write the book on holding a grudge."
"What? I don't hold grudges!"
"Come on, you're like, the king of grudges."
"Then you're the queen."
Sam shifted. Dean could hear the smile in his voice when he answered. "You're like, the Emperor of Grudgeland."
Dean tried not to smile. "You rule the grudge planet."
"You created the grudge solar system"
Sam yawned. "That's original."
Dean felt himself getting sleepy. He turned his head toward the windows. He thought he could see the hint of daylight through the curtains. "Sam?"
"Go to sleep, man."
"Is it daylight?"
Sam's tone was more thoughtful. "Yeah, it's about 7:30. Sorry, you want me to keep telling you the time?"
Dean smiled. "Nah. I can see the outline of the curtains. Think I can start to make out the digital clock on the dresser."
Sam let out a long, relieved sigh. "Well, thank God for that, then."
"Yeah. Winchesters finally catch a break. Where's the champagne?"
"That's what I thought."
"Go to sleep. And, you know, thanks. For being willing to---"
"Shut up. I'm trying to sleep, Sam."